Electric Power Trips in Households: The Basics

It is the Chinese New Year period, and you are visiting your grandparents along with your extended family. Your cousins are having a whale of a time having a sumptuous steamboat and hotplate dinner, your aunts and uncles are watching a Chinese imperial palace drama on television, while your nieces and nephews are battling it out on the latest Nintendo Switch, connected to a widescreen mounted television. And all of a sudden, the lights and electricity goes out completely, leaving an unusual silence in your midst. Power trips are a fairly common occurrence in households, but at the same time a slightly obscure concept for many of us: we may not always know the causes of power trips, and therefore we often resort to guessing and trying multiple options to remedy the situation.

What is a power trip, and what are its causes?

A “power trip” is in fact the tripping of the electric circuit breaker (ECB). The ECB is a device that in our households automatically “trips”, or disconnects the complete electric circuit, when too much electricity flows through the wires such that it cannot handle the excess current. The electricity flow is therefore cut off to prevent overheating, or damage to your wires.
The causes of ECB trips are numerous, although you may not always be able to identify them simply by looking at your circuit box. The most common cause is when the circuit is overloaded, for example, when too many plugs are connected to a single power socket (which may be a common practice during Chinese New Year!) Other causes include faulty appliances, faulty sockets, and internal wiring issues. Faulty appliances and sockets are easy to notice and be solved, but internal wiring issues lie beneath our walls, and require professional intervention.

Why does my power trip whenever it rains?

Some of us could also find that the ECB may trip when there is rain or lightning – this should not be a usual occurrence, but it is because when it rains, water might seep into the electrical wiring (through exposed power sockets, frayed extension cords, roof leaks, etc.), causing a short circuit which trips the ECB. If our electrical wiring system is well-protected, lightning will not usually cause trips as well, but if it does, then it is also due to a short circuit. Power trips during storms are indicative of a fault somewhere in your electrical system, and should be checked immediately.
electrical hazaed
Electrical wiring around households are complex and may be dangerous. Always seek professional assistance when there is a real possibility of danger. (Image credits: electrical-engineering-portal.com)

How do I troubleshoot a power trip?

ECB trips can be very inconvenient, since all electricity is cut off from our household, leaving us with no light, ventilation. It would be disastrous if all the refrigerated steamboat ingredients and ice-cream in the freezer spoils as a result, ruining your family reunion. This inconvenience would be made worse if your family is on holiday and there is no one to tend to your food items. It is therefore crucial to know how to act when we encounter an ECB trip.
First, turn off all switches in your home as a safety measure. Check your household for any possible damage or melting to electrical plugs and wires, which could well contribute to the trip. Then, locate the tripped breaker in the circuit breaker box (fuse box) in your home: this will likely be the lever which is not pointing in the same direction as all other levers, and this lever will be pointed to the “OFF” position. Next, reset this single lever by pushing it from the “OFF” position to the “ON” position; in doing so you will encounter some resistance, but the lever should then remain in the “ON” position. Lastly, test the circuit by turning on all the appliances again. If the appliance then continues to work as per normal, then the issue is resolved.
circuit breakers
Push the single lever, which is not facing in the same direction as others, upwards to reset it. (Image credits: Shutterstock)
However, if the lever remains in the “ON” position but supplies no electricity, or if the lever continues to trip after resetting, or if it is hot or giving off a burning smell, then the circuit breaker may be faulty, and professional repair is required. This is a highly dangerous task, and you should by no means attempt the repair on your own disregarding your own safety. For professional assistance, you should contract with an EMA-licensed electrician to do the repairs. It is mandated by law that all electrical work must be carried out by a licensed electrical worker. These electricians undergo thorough training in repair issues, and will be able to effectively troubleshoot the power trip at hand, and replace or repair faulty circuit breakers or wiring to avoid future recurrences of the same problem.
iimafix offers efficient and effective electrical repair services that will minimise any inconvenience to you as much as possible. Contact us at 8798 8911 / 6252 2884 to enquire more about the full range of services we provide!
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